Africa’s population is young, and getting younger: 70% of the continent’s population is under the age of 30. In the next 35 years, an estimated 1.8 billion babies will be born, making Africa home to more young people than anywhere else in the world. In China, the post ’90s generation (90后), born after the political and economic tumult of previous decades, are coming of age. As they do, they adopt world views that differ radically—even unrecognizably—from those of their parents’ generation.
One of the major international sagas defining the world these young people grow up is, undoubtedly, China-Africa relations. We have heard a lot about the evolving relationship between country and continent in recent years. About stadium diplomacy and ‘win-win cooperation’, resource extraction and racial discrimination, transnational flows of money and people. Yet much of the knowledge about Chinese-African relations is produced by, well, older people—commentary articulated by political, economic and academic veterans. And, to be honest, some of the frames and narratives are getting a bit…old.
Which is not to shun the careful and hard-won wisdom of previous generations. Other spaces and sites are already doing a great job sharing their voices and highlighting their experience and insight (see here or here or here or here).
But we want a space for us. With the China-Africa Millennials Project (CAMP), we want to give voice to the currently voiceless millions of young people from China, Africa and around the world. We want to insert youth into the emerging kaleidoscope of voices telling and retelling China-Africa stories.
As such, the essays, reflections and reports collected here are authored by “millennials,” all of whom have had some unique involvement in intersections of China and Africa. The pieces range in nature, quality and content. Some are rough, unpolished—a few authors are publishing thoughts in English for the first time, based on micro-research projects conducted over just a few weeks. Others are written by emerging scholars, based on years of careful consideration. Taken together, however, we hope the disparate body of works here will add a sunburst of new and lively voices to existing conversations, chip away at the dominance of stale and aging narratives, and ultimately create new discursive frontiers.
We humbly hope that this space will serve as one in which a new generation of authors, artists, scholars, business people, and wanderers can test out their voices. Can question and explore, share and exchange.
There is a lot to learn from these young people—even our most venerable elders admit it. And who knows? Maybe, not so long from now, some of those posting here will be the ones shaping the narratives of China and Africa.